The Couple That Kills Together…

This week’s flash fiction challengeDown The TV Tropes Rabbit Hole

***

The exit was only 10 feet away.  Hunched behind a table, armed collectively with only a sword and a six-shooter loaded with one bullet, it seemed much further.  Especially given the 12 gun-toting men standing in the doorway.  But Marianna and Duff Van Asch had seen worse.

First, it was a steel table, with hints of titanium.  Duff had surmised as much by knocking it a few times with his sword.  A good vintage.

Second, Duff’s sword was not just a sword; it was the sword.  Well, one of them, to be precise.  The swords of legend – Excalibur, Masamune, the Heavenly Sword – were all cut from the same cloth, if that cloth were an ancient metal forged deep underground.  Duff couldn’t tell which version of the sword he had, but needless to say, it was a pretty good one.

Third, Marianna was saving that bullet for someone else.  Frankly, she hated that she had to carry the gun at all. As a graduate of the Academy, Marianna was well-trained in the lethal arts. She prefered to work with her hands.  But, traditions were traditions, and every Academy student had to choose a signature weapon upon graduation.  Duff was lucky, he had gotten his family’s sword.  Marianna had had to choose her weapon by sticking her hand in a wooden barrel and fishing around like a teenager trying to unclasp a bra (which Duff had ironically done to her bra later that night).  In the end, she had pulled out the six-shooter, much to her chagrin and the amusement of her classmates. And if that wasn’t enough, the gun had a note tied to the handle, which read glibly: “Only in case of emergency.”  This hardly qualified as an emergency.

“Mar, what’s our plan?” whispered Duff.

“Why do I always have to decide? You’re the one with the sword, you figure it out.”

It was a constant refrain in their marriage. Normally they left their bickering behind when they were on the job. The typical marital squabbling did not play well in their line of work.  But Marianna was particularly miffed at having to dream up another escape plan today, especially when Duff was the one who tripped the alarm in the first place. There was no doubt that Duff was an excellent fighter – he certainly didn’t need her help handling these amateurs – but Marianna wished that he would take more initiative sometimes.

She knew that he was more than capable; after all, he managed to woo her at the Academy (although it had taken Duff the better part of their first year to ask her out).  Duff tried the  formal upper crust courtship routine, but he soon realized that Marianna was a different type of girl and he was going to have to step up his efforts if he wanted to land her. And land her he did, but not until end of their final year at the Academy, which culminated in the Blind Duel Challenge.

One by one, each member of the graduating class faced off, blind to their opponent’s identity, by way of ornate masks.  Duff and Marianna had been an item for a couple of years at that point, but Duff felt he had to prove to her that he was not some entitled brat and the challenge provided the perfect opportunity. His path to the finals was relatively easy.  Although weapons were not allowed, Duff was a pretty good martial artist in his own right, and he had quickly dispatched his opponents with a few carefully-timed punches and a series of quick throws.

His final opponent was a different story.  He or she moved with such an effortless grace, swatting away Duff’s punches casually with the back of a hand.  Part of the challenge of the tournament was masking your fighting style.  The Academy students had trained together for so long, that by the time graduation rolled around, everyone knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Duff knew that Mar preferred quick, intense movements, and while he had hoped that he could face (and beat) her in the finals, he figured his opponent was probably that jerk Wallis Abaroa.

Duff continued to rain punches and kicks on his opponents, but was having little success. His thoughts turned to the box back in his room and the different challenge he faced later that night. He wasn’t sure if he should more nervous about that conversation or his present opponent.

Who had just vanished from view.

Before he could turn around, it was too late, and his opponent landed a stiff wrist to the back of his neck that sent him staggering forwards. Regrouping, Duff spotted an opening and he took it.

***

“Alright, I get the point,” said Duff. His eyes moved from her to the table.  “On three?”

“A little messy, don’t you think?.”

“I didn’t realize you had grown so attached.”

Mar kicked the table forward as the shots rang out. Several red shirts dropped to the floor even before Duff sprang up.  He deflected one bullet back to its owner, dodged another, and soon only one opponent remained, a towering brute with a giant gun to match. Duff drew his sword back with both hands, but before he swing forward, his opponent crumpled to the ground.

“He shouldn’t have turned his back on me,” said Mar as she lowered her leg.

“A lesson I know all too well,” said Duff, rubbing the back of his neck.

***

My TV trope: “Battle Couple

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